5 May 2020
Grammo Suspect, a Kenyan LGBTQI rapper, activist and spoken word musician, is one of the first artists to receive an emergency grant from Artists at Risk (AR). The AR Covid-19 Emergency Fund was created to support artists at risk who face threats to their freedom or safety and are unable to reach a place of refuge during the coronavirus pandemic.
As an openly lesbian artist in Kenya, she has been the victim of death threats. She was offered a residency by Artists at Risk (AR) at AR-Safe Haven Helsinki to enable her to find refuge in Finland, but following the outbreak of coronavirus, Europe’s lockdown has made it impossible for her to secure a visa.
‘Artists like Grammo Suspect are facing a double crisis,’ says Marita Muukkonen, co-founding director of Artists at Risk. ‘She faces threats as an LGBTQI artist for violating local norms and is unable to reach a place of safety during the pandemic. It’s essential that artists like Grammo Suspect are given all the support necessary to survive. That’s why we created the emergency fund as a priority.’
The Artists at Risk (AR) Covid-19 Emergency Fund for persecuted artists was launched in April. The new fund will cover the living costs of artists at risk and, where necessary, relocate artists to a place of safety within their own country or region.
Grammo Suspect has repeatedly faced attacks and threats that have forced her to leave her own home.
‘For me, self-quarantine is a way of life,’ she says. ‘Because of my physical appearance, my sexuality and my activism, I’ve been forced to stay indoors most of my life.
‘I cannot pursue my musical career in Kenya because most producers can’t work with a lesbian. And those who have no problem with it have been attacked and threatened in the past.
‘The government doesn’t want anybody to record anything that is LGBT related. I also can’t get gigs anywhere in Kenya.’
Grammo Suspect was awarded a residency in 2019 by AR-Catalonia at Konvent.zero.
Watch our video interview with Grammo Suspect about the impact of Covid-19 and the support of Artists at Risk (AR) here:
Artists at Risk (AR) has launched a crowdfunding page as part of its campaign to raise an initial 10,000 euros https://www.gofundme.com/f/artistsatrisk
Grammo Suspect (full bio )– Rainbow Ambassador Kenya is an Artists-at-Risk (AR) Resident at an undisclosed location, coordinated by the AR Secretariat which is co-funded by the Kone Foundation. Her current AR-Residency is funded by the AR Covid-19 Emergency Fund and the City of Helsinki.